Dick Barton A


April 23 2013

"A Correspondent has sent.......  this 3 way correspondence between

  Dick Barton, Enid Collins and Richard Palmer.

This is an historic document and will be of great interest to those who were

with the Jhanzie and Jokai Companies as well as others who were in the

Panitola/Dikom/Lahoal/Dibru and Doom Dooma areas.

Some background has been added to some of the names mentioned. 
We have Dick Barton's permission to show the letters on this site

PHOTOS  To go to the photos of Dicks 2004 visit please click


Welcome to a site about Jokai Tea Co, Assam, India.

     I was born in Tinsukia, Upper Assam, India in 1924.  My father was a Tea Planter from c1903 to 1938.  He finished up as Superintendent of 6 gardens in the Panitola Group of Jokai Tea Estates.

    As always, after his death, I wished I had learnt more of that life.  So I was exceptionally lucky to meet Richard PALMER whose first job on arrival in Assam at Christmas 1929 was to help our whole family move into the 'Burra' bungalow in Panitola.  Some of his letters are transcribed here.

    The way we 'met' Richard was an amazing co-incidence.  My niece was flying from Australia to New Zealand for skiing and the people she was sitting with on the aeroplane asked her to stay with them for the night. 'Granny' asked her if she minded tea bags for her tea. 

"Of course not" , she said "but my grandfather might have done".  

"Why was that ?" asked 'Granny'.  

"He was a Tea Planter in Assam".  "So was my brother."  

Thus we learnt that Richard PALMER knew our family so well.


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There is a list of all the letter at the top of the page --please click to go to the one you wish to read

Various Letters.

Letter from Enid Collins. 1st July 1991

Thank you for your letter which arrived the day I was leaving with a short stay with my daughter Valerie and her family at Herriard, Hants.

Phillippa Donkin I last saw at the finals of the Gold Cup Polo Tournament at Cowdray Park about 4 or 5 years ago. She was the daughter of Phillip Moran, a very old Assam family. Her first marriage broke up. She then married Hugh Donkin, also a tea planter and they returned to England and started a riding school near Bexhill.

Brickie Harrison was a friend of my mother-in-law. She had a house in Wroxham and I remember his hat in 1928, a brown trilby, hanging in the hall. She often spoke of him but I never met him. I believe he diesd before he could retrieve his hat.

I know Max Tweedie well. He and his second wife live in the Isle of Man. I also met his parents, J W Tweedie when they lived near Alresford, Petersfield. Max Tweedie's sister married Blomfield and is in the pig-sticking photo in "The Merchant Prince".

Duwali pujah (Festival of Light) is always held in November and it is always a fine clear night with no wind. It is a peaceful and picturesque pujah, very different to Durga when the labour force all got drunk and threw red water around staining their clothes. It was a fertility festival, I believe. We avoided crowds and kept our car windows closed when driving through bazaars at that time in March.

I am afraid I cannot help you with the Panitola bearers. John & I often visited Panitola for meets and matches but Dibrugah and Nudwa were our clubs on the South Bank. When we were at Joyhing, North Lakhimpur at Dibu or Dejoo was our club. This was a very small club compared to Panitola and Dibrugah.

Belinda MacDonald married and went to Canada many years ago. Her parents died some years ago in Cornwall. I have a friend there who may know Belinda's address. It was her father Ramsay Mac who took the Cine photos and her great uncle Agar who owned Sirroco engineering firm near Belfast. John & I spent a weekend with him in 1937. He motored up (or rather, his chauffeur did) all over Northern Ireland. He himself slept most of the time at the back of the car. When we were being driven to the docks to catch our boat home, his Rolls caught fire. We were hurriedly picked up by a passing car and only just managed to catch the ferry before the gangway went up. We heard later that the fire was put out with the old man's overcoat and not much damage was done - to the car ! 
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Letter to Enid Collins 7 July 1991

Dear Enid - (if I may be so bold)

I am returning Richard Palmer's letter with many thanks. I still have the scars to prove I fell off the verandah - strange that someone else can remember that after 62 years !!

I will drop him a line because any memories of my parents will help me to build up my family history facts. Lately most of the research has been going into Clare's family. Having found that her grandmother was born in Australia (Not NZ as per family legend), I have now traced them back to Cornish tin miners and Isle of Man lead miners and discovered an odd skeleton on the way !

We drove down to Spain recently so we have had, at least, a bit of sunshine but this continual rain is still rather depressing. The weeds enjoy it.

We often talk about our trip to Australia, so ably organized. Diana has just gone out there for a month. She has been involved in setting up a new Company producing children's comics and needs a good rest. She left Marvel Comics and they set up 'Redan' and took "Fun to learn with Thomas the Tank Engine" with her. It is her particular production. Maybe they will also get the monthly 'Thomas' when the licence comes up for renewal.

We also have a different Thomas in the family now. Sally's little boy is now 9 months old and the apple of Clare's eye. We plan to go down there on Sunday, 14th to visit them and tidy up Diana's flat.


Letter from Richard Palmer - 8 July 1991.


My Dear Giles (hope use of your Christian name in order - we were acquainted though briefly some 60 years ago).

Thank you very much for your letter and the copy of of your diary covering your visit to India / Assam in 1987.

Yes, what a coincidence! And had immediate onward travel facilities from Christchurch been available, I don't suppose your niece would have stayed a few days with my niece and family and talked about 'Family'.

I don't know when I will be visiting then in Norfolk - their home is at Limpenhoe, not much more than a hamlet. Their nearest landmark is the sugar factory at Cantley. When I do, I'll let you know.

Your letter and extracts from your diary bring back all sorts of memories.

Your fall from the Tippuk B. bungalow was before I arrived there on Christmas morn 1929. You were all due to move to Panitola on or about 1st January 1930. My first 'job' was seeing to the loading of your furniture on to railway trucks at the factory siding. Being unversed in the language was something of a handicap. dealing with 'native' labour not so much of a problem as prior to 'going to Tea' I had done 5 years in a sugar factory in British Guiana where workers were of Asian descent of 'Afro-Caribean appearance'.

If and when we do meet up, and if my son and family are there, you will have much in common with him as he is a pipeline engineer with Shell UK Expro at Lowestoft.

Your diary notes mention Tingrai. I remember going to a Tea factory there - must have been in 1969 or 70 to see something very new. Natural gas being used for the 'direct heating' of air for the Trough Withering of leaf. I can still remember the 'aromatic' scent given off by the burning gas.

This is only a brief acknowledgement of your letter but I will get down to it and cover many more things.


If the big table in Panitola dining-room is the same one I remember, some well known last war personalities have sat at it. Lord Louis (Mountbatten) when he was O.C. SEAC and General Slim who commanded the 14th Army which kept the Japs out of Assam. Numerous American big-wigs also fed from it. One, General Caleb V Haines, said to be the best 'big ship' pilot in the United States was billeted on the Vernon Brownes and left to go back to the States to organise the new B29 bombers for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima missions.

In a letter to Edith Collins, I mentioned visiting your parents in 1948 when on leave. (Edith was the widow of John Collins who flew his own plane out to Assam and it was used by Jokai personnel.) I think I said that you and Ann were away at school. I was, of course, wrong, you must have been at University or training somewhere for your profession to be. (I was already working at Bexford in Suffolk making photographic film base.)


I have said earlier that I will write you in more detail when I have collected my thoughts and made some notes. If, as a Plymouth Brethren Aunt would have said, "I'm spared", I will be 89 in August and sadly not as nimble mentally or physically as I would like to be.

When I first knew it, the Panitola Burra Bungalow had a thick thatched roof which truly enhanced its looks. I dare say now the roof is G.C.I sheet. Air conditioning now compensating for the loss of 'coolth' which thatch imparted.

One point before I stop... In his office at Panitola, your father had a set of graphs showing the 'results' of gardens from the time he 'took them over' either as Manager or, from 1930 as Superintendant.

There was the same trend throughout. First year perhaps a little 'dip' but from then onward a steady increase. And I assure you that in saying this I am not 'doing a creep'.

Stopping now but I promise to write more before long.

My sister and her daughter and family in New Zealand very much hope that on her way from the ski slopes to Australia Lucy will call in and see them. They really 'took to her'.

With best wishes Yours sincerely

Richard Palmer.
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Letter to Enid Collins - 19 July 1991.

Dear Enid,

Thank you for your letter of 12th. I've just had a letter from Dick Palmer and he promises to write more at length later. What is the Tippuk B Bungalow ? Does 'B' in that context mean 'Burra' ?

You mentioned about John flying out to Assam. Did he also use a cine camera ? I have a 16mm film (which is very difficult to view as all my films are 8mm) which someone took in the UK and carried it back to Assam to show my parents how Anne and I were growing. Was that John ?

You also mention camps and fishing across the Brahmaputra - I have some photos taken on such a trip and must bring them down sometime. I have faint memories about arriving at a deserted bungalow to stay for some days. Were there such bungalows available for all Jokai personnel ?

I vaguely remember going out 'greener' shooting with a pop-gun and various people kindly telling me that I had really shot that pigeon ! Playing 'poo-sticks' with empty cartridge cases is another memory. Could there have been a twin-hulled car ferry for crossing the river ? Now there is a large bridge at Gauhati but I don't know what there is further up.

We are looking forward to seeing Anne at our Richard's wedding in London in October - pity we are so far apart. Sally is bringing Thomas up to see us today and Richard is arriving for the weekend so we are busy cooking ! Also for the last two weeks we have had a new puppy called Jaimie. Trying to get him outside just in time is very frustrating.

All Best Wishes

Letter from Enid Collins  22 July 1991

Thank you for your letter.

Yes, B stands for 'burra'. The burra bungalow belonged to the Manager and the 'chota' to the Assistant. (Big and Small.)

I am certain that the cine photos, you speak of were taken by Ranald MacDonald. He was a wealthy planter with private means. I have seen many of his films. He used to take them at children's parties. I remember one of Anne, aged 3, having a tussle with Ian Ogg (about a year older) at the tea table ! I also remember photos of you and Anne, taken with some other children who had been left at home, at some seaside place with his children, Sandy and Belinda in the picture too with Kenneth Warren's family.

It was 'Mac' who also owned a launch, the 'Flora', and he used to take his guests across the Brahmaputra in this, to picnic and fish. The empty bungalows you speak of were 'Dak' bungalows owned by the Government Forestry Department for their officials on tour. You could write and book them ahead if they were vacant, for a shooting or fishing trip. You took your own food but a 'chowkidah' - caretaker - would boil a kettle for you. But John and I took a tent, as we got passes from the Political Officer to go beyond the Inner Line to fish. This was a mile into the foothills. We got to know the hill tribes, the Abors, so well that later we were allowed much further up the rivers into the hills - marvellous fishing. We used to go up by 'dugout' with a shaped stern to take a 5 HP outboard engine. We crossed the Brahmaputra in a 40ft dugout (made from a single tree) with 22« HP outboard. We took 3 boatmen to help pull the boat up the rapids. We only shot for the pot, our chief interest was fishing. We were once sleeping on the sands under a mosquito net and in the morning awoke to find elephant footprints all around us. The boatmen were sleeping 100 yards or so away, saw it but decided to keep quiet and not to shout at it. They were probably right for it just went away.

I did not know that they had now built a bridge between Ammigoon and Gauhati. It used to be a ferry crossing and one could have a wash and a meal onboard before changing to the other train.

We used to take cars over on primitive rafts, polled by 'miris' at various crossings or over bamboo bridges, which were washed away during the monsoons.

I liked your story about the 'greener' shoots. They were very good eating and attractive birds ! We had an 8 mm cine camera but not until 1950 and I have some interesting films. I think I have answered all your questions. Mac's camera was 16 mm, I remember.

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Letter from Richard Palmer - 18 September 1991.

Will try to answer your enquiries (briefly).

WROTHAM: near Sevenoaks, Kent. Lawrie Group plc operate at Wrotham Place. In the past it was the residence of Bishops of Rochester. Lovely old house. Lawries moved there from Dunster House, Mincing Lane in the 70s after I was put out to grass.

Do Alex Lawrie still exist ? Now Laurie Group plc with Eastern Produce (now Linton Park plc) the biggest tea producing organization in the world.

Frandial I only knew of them briefly after they had 'bought' Jokai. Corresponded with a Mr Kinney (I think).

Books on Tea There are many. The publication which, in my humble opinion, is the best is "All about Tea" written by an American, Uckers. It is in two volumes. There are copies in Lawrie's library at Dunster House. Others:- "History of the Assam Company" (the oldest Co in Assam, "History of the Jorehaut Company" etc etc. I have the Assam Co history and refer to it in the notes I sent you.

C.T.C Machine Will do a sketch later on. C.T.C stands for Cut, Tear & Curl. Invented by a man named McKercher and the prototype came into operation in 1931 in the Amgoorie Co's factory. McKercher was the Superintendant of the Amgoorie Co - later knighted for services to the Tea Industry. My old boss, C.A. Rainey (60 years in Tea) and must have been a contemporary of A.N.B. in Jokai, maintained that the C.T.C. was responsible for revolutionising the tea drinking habits of the Western World. It produces the small leaf required for 'quick brew' and Tea Bags.

Duliaian No Tea garden of this name in the Tingrai District, so just the name of a place or village.

Dr Goldie I knew him well. Was with the Assam Railways and Trading Co before coming to Jokai. Retired not long before the last war. In the 1914 war he was awarded the M.C.

Prichard I remember the name but not the person.

Sheila Watson-was she very beautiful as a young girl ? I remember going to Sandy Watson's garden (I think Betjan) one morning and a daughter, it may have been Sheila) was setting off to be a bridesmaid at a local wedding looking immaculate. Mrs Watson, I remember as a very placid lady - he a very 'horsey' man. There was a 'gallop' on the garden, I believe a measured mile.

Stephen - Name doesn't ring a bell.

Will do more about the C.T.C in time. Currently not doing too well healthwise, a cellulite affected leg. Old age bad enough without these handicaps.

Problematical when next I'll be visiting Limpenhoe. When I do will let you know. They both work, she part-time. However I could take you to lunch at Reedham or somewhere near.

Excuse scrappy letter.

P.S. McKercher was an apprentice at Marshalls, Gainsborough, makers of Tea machinery thus accounting for him eventually 'going to Tea'.

No need to return the 'bumf'. Unlikely I'll want it.

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Letter from Richard Palmer - 1 March 1992.

Thank you for your letter dated as long ago as 22 Jan, should be 22 Feb, shouldn't it ? I do apologise for taking so long to reply but, sadly, I become progressively less 'nimble' bodily and mentally.

I envy you getting about the world. My traveling days are long gone ! Will ask son, Rick, if he has heard the name Mason.

I may go to them beginning of April but nothing definite arranged yet. I used to do the journey Taunton to Norwich by train but am no longer able to cope with the hurly burly of crossing London to Liverpool Street.

Not surprised that Williamson Magor - now, I believe, in so far as concerns Assam, MacNeill Magor, said they had no Jokai contacts.

In the first place Lawrie sold their interest in Jokai to an organization named Frendial (I think I have the spelling right) with offices in London. I corresponded some time ago with a Mr Kinney of that organization. Frendial sold to Sethia. Lawrie really lost out on that one. They sold their interest to Frendial for, I was told, 3 million. Sethia bought it from Frendial for the equivalent of 27 million !!

My understanding is that it was Balmer Lawrie, agents for Jokai which had Government appointed Directors on the Board. I may be wrong.

I only heard comparatively recently that Jokai is now Rossal and know little about that organization.

Your Sir Robert Norman and his interest in orchids - I expect you know that Enid and John Collins were orchid people too.

She and Paddy called very briefly on me not so long ago en route from near Porlock to the ferry at Lymington. Kind of them to go so far out of their way to see an old man. Long ago that I saw either of them before that.

So far as concerns Wrotham, just about all the 'old guard' have left. I just get my monthly pension statement from them.

The chief accountant, Peter Crouch is one of the 'old hands' so is Alan Hobbs now head of the Tea purchase department. Was a beginner in Dunster House when I started in 1958.

Recently someone told me that 'with Eastern Produce' now goes under a different name. Lawrie are the biggest Tea people in the world. And not to forget Keith Fitzgerald, Chairman of Lawrie and many more Companies - due to retire soon - is 77 - I remember him just out of the Army joining B.L. in 1946.

To go in with this, I'll try to do a sketch of the essential bits of a C.T.C. machine. A note by the Manager of Amgoorie where the first - should I say prototype - saw life is enclosed. A point Johnson does not make is the finding that sharp rollers were an absolute essential. A man not in the Amgoorie Co was the first to appreciate this and installed the necessary machine tools.

The Palmer referred to by Johnson is my brother, Sammy, who sadly died soon after retirement over 25 years ago. He told me, and he was not prone to sleepwalking, that when work on the prototype was at its height, he came to one night under his bed trying to screw bits of the machine into the spring mattress.

McKercher, inventor of the C.T.C. machine was the son of a Lincolnshire farm worker, apprenticed to Marshall of Gainsborough, makers of Tea machinery which resulted in him going to Tea in Assam. A man of imposing appearance who hobnobbed with Governors and was a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly.

To come back to Jokai; In 1981 when Frendial were the owners, and a man named V.K.Chaudri, a senior member of the Balmer Lawrie staff was the Jokai 'head man' in India, big things were in train for the celebration of the Company's 100th anniversary. Actually celebration of its 'registering' in London. It was 'registered' in Calcutta in 1872.

A man named Pearson Surita, who had written an acclaimed history of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club was appointed to write a history of Jokai and someone asked me to do some notes for him. This I started to do and got as far as just after the last war when the news came that Frendial had sold out to Sethia who was not interested in any celebrations. I'm afraid I said "Blow it" and left my notes unfinished. Several people asked for copies and I obliged retaining only a poor copy of a first draft. I have this with lots of typing errors and corrections. It is a bit bulky on foolscap paper. If you would like to see it, I will send it. Don't laugh but a fair copy is lodged in the Archives of The centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge and seemingly much appreciated by the Archivist. Over the years I have sent the Centre quite a few bits and pieces which have always been accepted with pleased satisfaction. Hard to believe but the inference is that they lack the sort of information I have given them.

In addition to the Johnson note on the C.T.C. and my poor efforts at sketches of its rollers etc, I am enclosing the following:-

A note by J.W.Tweedie (I copied from his handwritten notes) who went to Tea in 1887. The Jaipur Tea Co about which he writes is/was later absorbed into the Jhanzie Tea Association, a Jokai 'sister' Company with Balmer Lawrie the Calcutta Agents.

It gives you an insight into early days and mentions several Jokai 'notables'. Another note tells something about these 'notables'.

George Ramsden is mentioned in my note as being Julie Christie (the film star's grandfather. I always say she is the only film star I have seen having her bath. This when she was a few months old in 1940 being bathed before the fire in the living room of the Singlijan Manager's bungalow. Her father was the Manager.

Incidentally she went to Assam a few years ago (before the trouble which has stopped permits for visitors - you must have just made it) to see her birthplace (St Luke's Mission Hospital at Chabua) and to look for and find relatives of her one time Khasi Ayah. I'm told Julie is a very nice and unaffected young lady.

Rambling on .....

Coming back to the proposed Jokai centenary celebrations - Old hands - like myself - were to be flown out at Company expense (there was an apologetic note to the effect that we would have to go 'Club Class' not First !). Visits to the gardens and much junketing in Calcutta. All, of course, negatived by Sethia. Wonder where he is now ? Was in prison in India for a time.

Sorry that the notes are in such poor condition. Let me have them back one day.

Must really stop ....

I think I have told you that I'm rising 90 hence errors and omissions

The Max Tweedie referred to is old man Tweedie's son. Joined Jokai from the Army in, I think, 1923. Rose to be a very senior Manager and in 1950 went to the Janzie Association as its Superintendant.

Now in poor health living in the Isle of Man. We have been good friends for years. I write now and then and his wife though blind phones me back as he is too shaky now to write or phone. Sad when remembering what an active man he was.

When I joined Jokai on Christmas Day 1929, it consisted of the following 17 gardens:-

Bokel, Muttuck, Singlijan, Jamirah, Dikom, Lengrai, Hattialli, Panitola, Nokhroy, Woodbine (Nalani), Hukanpukri, Tippuk, Daisajan, (All South Bank) North Bank:- Joyhing, Koilahari, Pathalipam, Bordeobak.
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Letter from Richard Palmer - 9 March 1992.

Thank you for two letters of the 4th & 6th, the latter with the old notes and your copies thereof.

I get stupider and stupider. I did not send you the quite voluminous notes on the C.T.C. compiled by Johnson back in 1956. I enclose them now.

Also the very 'bitty' notes on Jokai from which I made a better copy. Anyway, it will give you something of an idea of things during the time your father was there and after. The new factory at Nalani for instance was built when he was Superintendant of the Panitola Group.

I told you why the notes stop so abruptly.

The J.J. (Jack) Lett referred to at Wrotham is, sadly, no longer with us. The name Barton would have meant something to him. He retired with a bad heart. Was latterly Lawrie's, or should I say the several Tea Companies Registrar. Went into the R.A.F. from Lawries at the beginning of the last war. Finished with a D.F.C. flying Lancasters. Extremely nice fellow.

Re 'changes' in the C.T.C.

So far as the 'rollers' are concerned nothing different. Smaller versions of the machine have been made and used with success. Width of rollers 2 ft against the wider version. Electric drive has superceded belts and countershafts. Pity you didn't see some working in the factories in the Tingrai District or at Panitola.

My notes on Jokai assume that the one to whom they were sent had access to records at Wrotham. The Directors' reports referred to; I sent those covering the period, I think it was, 1926/45 to the Centre for South Asian Studies at Cambridge University.

Somewhere I have a list from the Centre detailing the many donors of information. Maybe the letters written at the time of the mutiny are included but, of course, without the name of the writer, I cannot trace.

I would think you would find Dr Carter most co-operative.

Letter from Richard Palmer -14 May 1992.

Long time since I last wrote to you. Or, I think it is; my memory deteriorates.

I have remembered Muttuck as another garden with which your father was associated. I don't think I mentioned it in earlier letters.

Must have been one of the earliest gardens he was on and I remember his telling me that one of the first 'jobs' he was given was to build a new Assistant's bungalow.

The then traditional building, on stilts with the floor about 10 feet above ground level. Nahor posts on brick plinths, timber beams and floors and lath and plaster walls. Living room, two bedrooms with bathrooms, verandah facing north and originally a thatched roof later converted to G.C.I (Galvanized Corrugated Iron) with a thin covering of thatch.

Cost, so I was told, Rs 4,000 or, at one & sixpence to the Rupee, £300 !! I lived in it very comfortably for 3 years from 1937. There was a 'haunted' tree in the compound.

Muttuck is (if you have a map) situated where the Jaipur Road branches off the Trunk Road about 4 miles east of Dibrugarh. Road was made to provide access from Dibrugarh to the Fort and military cantonments at Jaipur / Naharkatiya. It gives access to Tingrai which you visited.

I wonder if you had any joy with enquiries. You had no luck when last you wrote to Wrotham (this surprises me) and I hope you found Dr Carter of The Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge more helpful. What little correspondence I had with him indicated that he is an enthusiast.

That's about all save to re-iterate that during the short time I was an Assistant at Tippuk when Superintended by your father I learnt more about the whys and wherefores of Tea planting than from anyone else in my 42 years involvement with the industry.
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Letter from Richard Palmer - 4 June 1992.

Thank you for your letter of 29th May. No hurry with the notes.

Cummings. Some notes I have record him as 'starting' Budla Beta Company.

Have I told you wrongly or have you misread ? Harrison was a batchelor. It was his sister that married Claude Cummings. Your investigations have found that Claude's sister married J.W.Tweedie in 1898. Their son C.M. Tweedie is, of course, referred to in some of the notes I sent you. Amongst other achievements, he shot two tigers with a right and left.

Later, I have recollections of a Cummings - perhaps Claude - living at Rungliting, a small garden near the Jokai's Singlijan. He must have a 'ziz' against Jokai as, so it was said, his will stipulated that the garden must never be sold to Jokai and it never was.

So glad you have heard from Leggatt / Wrotham. They must still have some records though I know that many were consigned to the 'tip' when Lawries moved from Mincing Lane. One of the lady secretaries has told me that she had tears in her eyes when she was obeying instructions. (Not to be repeated). [Safe enough 10 years later !]

If I knew Cummings on from 1929, your father must have known him.

Coming back to the Cummings / Tweedie marriage; it accounts for C.M. Tweedie according Harrison the title of 'uncle'. I was unaware of the sort of tie-up. Goes to show, doesn't it ?

Re-reading the notes you kindly copied for me, I see you query 'Thannah'. My understanding is Police Station. The Magistrates Court was 'Kucheri'.

When I was in Norfolk, I'm afraid i was not what might be described as 'up to concert pitch'. We did think of asking you up but eventually decided against. Hopefully there will be another time.

If and when you visit Cambridge & Dr Carter, you will find amongst other things a fair copy of the Jokai notes you now have ! I sent them to Miss Thatcher, Dr Carter's predecessor who said they were just the sort of thing they wanted !!

Dr Carter sent me (some years ago) a folder detailing 'Principal collection of papers in the Cambridge South Asia Archive'. Amongst the papers listed are those of "J.W. Collins, Manager of Jamirah Tea Estate, a Division of the Jokai (Assam) Tea Co Ltd". Two boxes 1947-58. Of course, Enid Collins' husband. If the papers only cover the period onward from 1947 they will not refer to John's big job in connection with the Evacuation from Burma and later on working on Airfields and Roads. Some of the time he was billeted with me.

If Lucy Tate does go back to New Zealand my people will be delighted to renew acquaintance. On the 'phone the other day my sister told me that Lucy's Bank Statements continue to come to them !

Tweedies again - before J.W started in Tea there were Tweedies in Indigo in, I believe, Behar and a Tweedie was Surgeon General to the John Company.

How I have burbled on.

Son and family now on holiday in Corsica. I don't when I'm likely to go to Norfolk again. When I do I hope a meeting can be arranged. Must remember I'm nearly 90 !

Re destruction of records; I suppose Lawries having disposed of interest in Jokai, some felt that retention of records was unnecessary.

Letter from Richard Palmer - 22 June 1992.

I have two letters from you to acknowledge, dated the 8th & 13th June. Sorry I have been so long in replying but advancing years incline to make one slow.

Of 8th:- As you know I keep in touch with Enid Collins and she sometimes gives me news of your sister Anne.

Yes, I have a copy of the Jenkins book "Merchant Prince". Had a 'spare' which I sent to Dr Carter. I believe it is now in 'hardback'. Sir Owain as plain Owain Jenkins was my 'burrasahib' when I was Balmer Lawrie's Visiting Agent.

Maybe you saw the photographs of the two people standing by a light aircraft and were told that the one in long trousers was John Collins. Another illustration in the book is of pigsticking people. The only lady, Vera Blomfield is still in the land of the living and is the late J.W.Tweedie's daughter. He is mentioned in one of the notes I sent you.

Before I forget; in a letter dated 17th June my sister in New Zealand said that Lucy Tate had 'phoned them from the Southern snowfields saying that she would be calling on them in due course.

Of 13th:- 'Kutcha' is the opposite of 'pukka'. Kutcha, raw, untrained, an earth road locally described as 'Kutcha' whereas one with waterbound Macadam or tarred Macadam surface is 'pukka'. Kutcha well, just a cylindrical hole in the ground without brickwork or concrete lining.

The Turbine Nullah was a sort of canal man-made from where the Ranganadi debouches from the hills 'leading' water to the sluice controlling flow to the old water turbine which once ran Joyhing factory. It did "in my day" there in 1944/45. When water level was too low we switched over to an elderly steam engine. The turbine dated about 1900. Sadly, the mouth of the nullah was blocked with heaps of boulders by a 'flash' and unexplained flood in, I think, 1953. Luckily a diesel prime mover was by then available. Now, of course, Joyhing factory threatened by river erosion is no longer in operation.

One day, I'll be very interested to hear what results from your visit to Wrotham and Dr Carter's visit to you. Shows you how on the ball he is. I have an idea that some time ago, John & Enid Collins went to the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge. I have already told you that John's papers are amongst the archives.

Afraid I'm much too long in the tooth to think of writing a book.

I don't know if and when I'm likely to visit Limpenhoe but if I make it, I will ask them to arrange with you for a visit. They contemplated coming to Somerset and staying at a nearby hotel as it is felt that it would be too much for me to have them here.

I see somewhere that MacNeill Magor claim to be the 'biggest' Tea people in India. Lawries, however, claim to be the biggest in the World.

Letter this morn from a one-time Jokai planter. As he says, there aren't many of us left. He is well on in his eighties.

If there is anything more I might be able to tell you, let me know.
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Letter from Richard Palmer - 29 June 1992.

Thank you for your letter of 25th which I will try to answer intelligently.

Your sort of questionnaire:-

Factory Challen. That section of the labour force working in the factory. Challen has other meanings. A Challen can describe a 'list' / 'inventory' of goods / possessions. You can, or could, challen a consignment of goods to a destination.

Kami Chunga. Chung is accepted as describing a building on 'stilts'/ The Panitola bungalow you saw / photographed is a 'chung' bungalow. The idea of building bungalows on 'stilts' was to get away from the 'mal air' thought to be the cause of malaria. However, Dr Ross, whose name is perpetuated by the Ross Institute at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, I think in Gower St, discovered that it was the female of the Anophese minimum mosquito (so far as Assam is concerned) which was responsible.

Withering Houses were often described as 'Chungs'. The enclosed photograph - which please let me have back - is of an all steel withering house at Panitola just post-war. People far right give you an idea of size [I fear the photo copy is lost]. When I can I will do a sketch of a withering house / chung with bamboo 'kamis'. A kami being a long strip of bamboo say 1«" wide by «" think and say 20 feet long. These were used to make a sort of lattice over which hessian cloth was laid on which leaf was spread to 'wither'. What a mouthful. !

Trough withering has, I believe, now almost entirely superceded withering in Chung leafhouses. Maybe you saw trough withering in progress when you visited Tingrai {I didn't}. Gardens there were some of the first to adopt trough wither using natural gas to heat / dehydrate the air forced through the leaf by 'forced draft' fans. Much more compact and more easily controlled than the old way of withering. Mostly introduced since my time i.e. 20 or more years ago.

Thatchbari. Yes, an area given over to growing the long grass used for thatching workers' houses and is olden times bungalows. Height of grass up to 6 ft.

Tung. Aleurities Fordii, Aleurities Montana (sp). A native of Southern China but now grown world-wide. Montana the variety most cultivated as Fordii requires a touch of frost to make the flowers do their stuff. The nuts contain much oil which is used as a drying medium in paints and varnishes. Now to some extent superceded by synthetics. I have seen groves in Assam and even bigger ones in Nyasaland - sorry, Malawi.

Hula. Say - a creek leading off a river or stream. Low lying tongues of land subject to flooding in the rains - say 6 ft and more below level of surrounding Tea, Jungle or Pasture.

Jat. In so far as concerns the Tea bush; Jat refers to the original China strain with which the Industry started in India / Assam. Then the indigenous variety of Tea discovered in the hills up the Namsang River, a tributary of the Burri Dehing, many years ago. This has been, should one say, improved by cross breeding etc. Several Tea seed producers are listed; Dellakhat Betjan, Tingamira Goipani, Dangri etc. Now I believe propagation is entirely vegetative i.e from cuttings which was just coming into fashion before I retired.

Jat. Where 'humans' are concerned: Caste, social distinction, from High Caste down to the untouchables. An example I personally encountered:- A High Caste Indian garden Manager told me that one afternoon returning to his office after lunch he found a man sitting in his office chair. Actually he knew who the man was - the District Excise Officer. However, he said to the man, "Who are you ? Get out of my chair and my office". And, so I was told, the man did with alacrity. I remarked that he shouldn't have spoken as he did. The reply was, "But he is a man of low social standing". Who, seemingly, had to bow to what the 'High Jat' man said. Rajputs are right at the top of the Caste league.

Wrotham. Amazing that all Jokai records have been thrown out by Lawries. I will try to find out the address in Calcutta of Rossall - the new name for what is left of Jokai as they may be more helpful.

Dr Carter has the John Collins papers and I sent him the 'green books' covering the period 1926/45. They must show the result crop and profitwise of the gardens your father managed and superintended. You, if I remember, were born in Tinsukia, i.e. Hukanpukri and from there went to Tippuk. From 1930 your father lived at Panitola and superintended the following gardens:- Panitola Nokroy, Woodbine / Nalani, Hukanpukri and Hattialli and for the last year or so before retiring also superintended Tippuk and Daisajan. Cambridge also have a fair copy of the Jokai notes I sent you and other bits and pieces from me.

Should you and your wife come this way, please let me know in advance that you may call in. Coming up to 90 in August, I'm not good at being caught on the hop but I would dearly like to see you.

Last but not least _ I do like the Father's Day cartoons. Wish I could 'draw and paint'. It is a gift you either have or have not. When I was an Engineer I was a fairly useful Draftsman.

One day I'll try to do "A Day in the Life of a Planter". I left actually working on a garden over 40 years ago, since then things have changed a lot.

Must stop. Do hope that Dr Carter is more helpful than Wrotham.
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Letter to Enid Collins - 25 June 1992.

Dear Enid,

It was so good to see you when we were down in the Island. I really should have been 'tapping' you for Assam stories !! Very sad news for me; I was hoping to visit Wrotham to see, at least some, Jokai records but they tell me there is NOTHING there. I'm hoping that Dr Carter will be popping in here in August during their vacation and I shall see what I can glean from him.

I put an 'interest' in the latest Genealogical Research Directory for Tea planters in Assam. Imagine a letter from Australia ! A lady whose great grandfather was Claude Cumming's grandfather's brother. Apparently his sister married J.W.Tweedie and Claude married A.J.'Brickie' Harrison's sister. How is that for a voice from the past ?

Can you suggest who was the very old bearer that I met in the Club at Panitola in 1986 who remembered Anne and I ? I seem to remember someone at Eastbourne telling me his name. Odgewan ? A pity that Eastbourne is such a pig of a place to get to.

I remember one night seeing saucers in all the trees with little candles in them. Duwali ? Would that be in November ?

I discovered recently a bit of paper written at Eastbourne which I thought I had lost. It has an address :- Phillippa Donkin, The Lodge, Hurst Green, Sussex. TN19 7QF. Now who would she be ? Also do you have any idea where Sandy and Belinda (McDonald) are ? I have lots of lovely stuff from Richard Palmer. Do you know if Frank Christie is still around ? I seem to have lost the directory from Koi-Hai.

We so much enjoyed our trip down and must try to do it again - maybe next year.

Best Wishes and to Paddy & Ken.

Letter from Richard Palmer

11 December 1992.

Thank you for your letter of 25th of last month. I have been long in replying, as I have been 'doing' Christmas cards which has taken up a lot of my time. Eighty odd and I have managed to get my overseas ones away to time by air mail.

You talk of trouble with your 'machine' and changing 'drives'. All too modern for me to comprehend. Rick has what looks like a small computer which seems to churn out type with a noteable degree of ease but I haven't a clue as to how one works the keyboard.

First things in your letter first.

Richard Gibb / Pittaway, and Tweedie - Of course, I knew both Pittaway and Gibb and Max Tweedie is a long time friend.

If memory serves, Pittaway came to the Jokai Company in 1934 having been in Tea elsewhere. For a time we were on the same garden.

Again from memory, Richard was born at Pathalipam the gut-of-the-way Garden on the North Bank of the Bramahputra, which as as I have told you was almost all eroded by the Subansiri in 1951 in the aftermath of the 1950 earthquake, just before the last war, now a man in his fifties.

I can't remember ever having seen him but a few days ago he phoned me with the sad news that his mother and step-father were both in hospital in the Isle of Man. His mother, Jane has been blind for some time and Max, now in his 93rd year in poor health. I write to them and someone reads my letters to them. Until now, Jane has replied by phone and last time she spoke to me - must be 6 weeks ago - she sounded surprisingly chirpy.

In a note with her Christmas card, Enid Collins told me that she has been in touch with Richard.

Sadly, I'm not surprised you are not getting any joy with your letters to Panitola. My experience has been similar. Hopefully, I will hear, in their Christmas cards the odd bit of news from my several one time Indian friends.

Things are far from what they used to be. Recent letter from people living in Shillong (very European) and temporarily visiting Gauhati (now the seat of the Assam Govt) tell of bombings and curfews etc etc. Makes one think back to the "Great Killing" in Calcutta in 1946. The British were still in the chair and soon British troops had things under control.

Now children - Yours seem to be doing really well. Gives one a nice feeling, doesn't it ?

Hopefully my Rick is making progress with Shell UK Exploration and Production - Shell EXPRO for short. Currently Gas Pipelines and one can only hope that gas will be required recession or not. At least another 20 years supply from existing fields.

Rick very anti-Govt about shutting down coal. He's minded to vote Labour next time. I'll not be there.

Your home sounds to be a very lovely one. A wrench to be thinking of selling. However, as one gets older one also gets less able.

Rick due to come for Christmas for us to discuss future arrangements for me. I want to go somewhere near them.

Thomas The Tank Engine, one of my grandson's favourites. He has several videos.

P.S. Pittaway would have worked on gardens in your father's Superintendency. Not, of course, Pathalipam.

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Some short notes on some of the people in the Dick Barton Letters:


Richard Palmer joined to Assam Company in 1928 and became a Superintendent and later Visiting Agent to not only that Company but to other Balmer, Lawrie gardens. His good friend Owain Jenkins, later Sir Owain and the author of “Merchant Prince” was the Managing Director of Balmer, Lawrie’s. Richard’s brother was manager of Amgoorie where the first CTC (Crush,Tear Curl) machine was built.

Enid Collins was the wife of John Collins, Superintendent of the Assam Company’s North Bank gardens. John started the Jokai Aviation service and did valuable humanitarian work during the 1950 earthquake. John donated a collection of papers, books and photos to the Centre for S.Asian studies in Cambridge.

Gyles(Dick) Barton now in his late eighties, is the son of A.N.Barton who was Superintendent of the Jokai Company. Dick and his wife Clare, visited Assam in 2004 and stayed at Mancotta T.E. where he celebrated his 80th Birthday.(see Dick Barton in the Correspondents section of the Koi-Hai website)

Dick has kindly given permission to reproduce these letters.


Some of the people mentioned in the letters:


J.W.Tweedie was an Asst manager on Jaipur in 1895. He married Claude Cummings sister in 1898 in Dibrugarh. Their son, C.M.Tweedie was Manager of Nalani TE , Tinsukia P.O. in 1949.

Claude Cummings was married to A.J. (Brickie) Harrison’s sister.(The Tweedies in Indigo had plantations at Allahabad, Jessore and Mirzapur. William Moran was the largest Indigo Broker in India)

A.J.Harrison in his early days had been an assistant on the Assam Company’s North Bank garden, Joyhing TE.

Claude Cummings:  In 1895 he was the Managing Proprietor of Kanjikoah TE-Panitollah in 1895 his partners were C.W.Wallace and John Alston. Claude.

 As per Richard Palmer’s letter, he must have had some major disagreement with the Jokai Company and he vowed that Kanjikoah would never be sold to them.

In the 1940’s it became part on the Budla Beta Tea Company, managed by Shaw,Wallace

In the 60’s KHARJAN TE had a listing of the gardens Kanjikoha and Borbari. The Manager was W.McK Homes, Acting manager: D.Carlyle Assts J.E.Vauqulin-N.C.Ferdinands-T.D.Morris.

Another listing for Kanjikoah showed V.H.M.Wells as Manager.


Ranald MacDonald: He and his wife were the owners of Titadimoro TE (and the motor launch ‘Flora’) Dibrugarh. The Forwarding Agents were Barry &Co.

Watson  There are two in the district in 1949 B.Watson at Deamoolie and W.Watson at Bordubi.

Pittaway was on Bokel (1949)

Philippa Donkin nee Moran: bred polo ponies at Mancotta. On returning to England she looked after the polo ponies on Lord Cowdray’s Estate at Midhurst. (Smudge Smith was chowkidhar there and he hosted many of the “Cowdray Reunions-see Koi-Hai)

William Moran & Co in the 1890’s was the largest Indigo Broker in the country and was based in Calcutta)

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